Throughout time, women have struggled in armed groups, but for the most part the reality of the contribution has been suppressed. But the times are now different. The contribution of women in the guerrilla has become so large that this mechanism no longer functions. The division of labour has also been undermined: women assume the responsibility for the infrastructure, men do the actions. Subversive women’s groups like Rote Zora are still few, but things are changing! We do not want only to carry out some actions, but also to describe the apparent reality of the ossified relationships we are forced to live with – even if we don’t find this easy.
We want, above all, to provide clarity on two points.
First, how the mechanism of imperialist oppression of women here and in the countries of the 3rd World functions. Regarding this question, we must recognize that the analyses of imperialism for the most part restrict their investigation to the political, economic, and military power structure of imperialism, neglecting to analyze the strategy as regards women here and in the 3rd World.
For us, it is not sufficient to say: on the basis of the analysis of imperialism, it is clear that NATO is the target for attacks and in as far as women attack NATO, the women’s struggle gains its pointed revolutionary direction. The liberation struggle remains, in this way, only an attack against the central power structures, leaving aside the daily contents of violence, through which destruction, oppression, and exploitation are experienced.
For us, it is also part of liberation, a sense of life and power, if we set a small fire under the ass of a piggish landlord or his handyman, of the Atomic mafia, etc. The problem we have with this is that we want to do more than we can in practice do, at this time.
However, that will also change!! As well, the actions against the daily violence are already understandable, not only for the majority, but for all those who have not allowed their brains to be ripped off. In this way, attacks against the central/State power structure have greater difficulty. They must be planned and thought through so that the political line is clear. Basically, we think that there are no “targets for attack” that can “overthrow” the State. The chance for a revolutionary movement lies much more in attacks against the unified, State organized living conditions. The attacks against the central/State institutions is only a part of this. It is also illusionary – better dogma, with all the revolutionary slogans in an action – to seize upon a single target of attack. The organization of continuity in an armed group is more clearly the way to open a perspective of hope and victory.
Another point which we have reflected on is the women’s movement. We want to find out more clearly why the women’s movement has lost its revolutionary explosiveness and taken the path of the “new inwardness”.
“The one and only women’s movement doesn’t exist. There are many forms of women’s struggle, and in each individual one there are even more elements in motion, apart from the gender question, the class position, nationality, and the concrete situation”.
As well, if it has been lost in oblivion today, the view of U.S. racism helped the women to identify their oppression as sexism. Stokely Carmichael (1) once spoke about the meaning of the definition. He cited “Alice in Wonderland” in this regard. In this book there is a discussion between Humpty Dumpty and Alice about definitions. “When I use the word”, said Humpty Dumpty, from quite far above, “Then it has exactly the definition that I give it. No more and no less”. “The question is”, said Alice, “whether words can give definitions to so many different things”, “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “who the man is. That is all”.
This is actually the decisive question, who the man is. That it already appears impossible to say “who the woman is”, indicates that it is the white men who define humans and things. It is as such that the history of Europe and America. They have defined what the coloured people and women of this world are. The definition that they gave women, as well as coloured people, was “uneducated and primitive”. In this way the rule of white men was legitimized. Women and coloured people must be “civilized”, which means nothing other than the destruction of all forms of independent consciousness expressed, for example, in individual histories and in culture, if they defend themselves, they will be mercilessly slaughtered. Thus, in Europe, the women during the witch-hunt and, today, the Indians in South America.
Understanding sexism and racism as integral components of the patriarchal ruling system often remains in the stage of “pious lip service”. So, in the popular analyses of imperialism, sexism as a means for dividing and ruling is barely mentioned. If we now write about sexism and gender specific division of labour, it is not so as to also say a word about us women, but on the basis of the knowledge that without concrete investigation about sexism, the condition in the 3rd world and in the metropoles, as well as in the Women’s Movement, cannot be understood. The oppression of women is older than capitalism, that isn’t “new”. One of the roots of this lies in the fact that the capacity of women to have children was and is seen as a function of her physiology, of her nature. To have or not to have children isn’t understood as a conscious act – as an interaction with nature – but as nature itself. Only the activities of the head and the hands was seen as an interaction with nature – and, as such, as work. This was not so for the activities of the breast and uterus of a woman. Marxist theory did not abolish this perspective about work. Accordingly, this perspective treats the so-called biological nature of women as a natural resource. They are, thus, exploited according to varied economic needs. In the 3rd World women are forcibly sterilized, in the metropole they are made material promises to encourage them to have children. Abortion is described as mass murder. The economic element of the exploitation of women’s capacity to give birth is expanded through racism. The whining and crying in the media about the sinking birth rate and the danger of the dying out of the “German people” indicates clearly what it’s about. Only German women should bear children. Women from Turkey, Spain, Greece, etc., should be forbidden from bearing children and sterilization should be recommended or even decreed.
Even the ruling class still haven’t achieved it, the research in the area of test-tube babies and gene manipulation signals the attempt to snatch from women their sole disposal over the capacity to bear children. The exploitative, non-reciprocal relationship with nature, according to which first women, and later other classes and peoples, were made part of nature is characteristic of all male styles of production – in particular capitalism. This exploitative relationship to nature has brought us today to the edge of ecological catastrophe. On this basis, they developed the sexist and racist division of labour in which they consolidated production conditions in which cultivating sugar cane and rice isn’t work for whites, housework isn’t work for men, and if women and children are hit, that isn’t violence. This division of labour is no superstructural phenomenon. It is not based on false ideas and false thinking the wo/man must only recognize, so as to change it, that it is the economic basis of the extreme exploitation under capitalism. In all serious analyses of imperialism, we’ve read that in the 3rd World backwards, pre-capitalist methods of production exist side by side with intense monopolization. On the one hand it is discovered that the concrete development, with growing capitalist development doesn’t cause these “backwards” methods of production to disappear. In reality, the opposite occurs, they are and will be constantly reproduced. For us, it is conspicuous that the problem of heterogeneity of methods of production are almost only examine
“Those who see it from the other side wonder why the question of d in the 3rd world. In the metropoles, on the other hand, homogeneous methods of production are accepted.
heterogeneity for the First World is not dealt with. Here, homogeneous methods of production ostensibly rule. This assertion is not only eurocentric and glorifying of capitalism (…) it is also sexist, because it covers up, in fact completely denies, that also at home labour power is extremely exploited, as such engaged at less that its reproduction cost, in fact half of all work hours – housework – is, in general, unpaid”. (C. Von Weilhoff).
Here, who the non-capitalist producers are is discussed:
- they are the housewives of the entire world;
- the subsistence farmers of the 3rd world;
- male and female marginals, particularly in the 3rd World.
It’s they who produce surplus value, as Rosa Luxemburg (2) wrote: “It is clear that surplus value is neither produced by workers nor by capitalists, but by social stratum who engage in non-capitalist production”.
For us the following facts are clear, sexism and racism are not something of the mind, not a case of false consciousness, that clarification and good will will change. It is economic conditions, which produce sexism and racism ever anew. They are, above all, necessary so that imperialism can function. That they, on the other hand, are also political instruments that divide the oppressed doesn’t speak against this. Imperialism is the stage of capitalism in which “the rationality” of capitalist methods of production – using people so as to exploit their labour power – has validity for very many people in the 3rd World. The majority are squeezed dry, without any perspective for health or an acceptable lifespan. And if there are too many people, the strategy is annihilation. Barbarism (3) is no vision of the future, we already find ourselves in it.
In the metropoled the conditions of violence are veiled. The economic violent force of capitalism has already established itself as acceptable violence in the heads of the people. The direct physical violent force, through the State with its organs of repression wins, but, as such, makes the significance of social conflict apparent. It is clearly established that the extension of capitalism in the metropoles has not led to the replacement of direct forms of violence by something else, but has led directly to increased violence.
Women have been exposed to every level of violence, the indirect, structured forms of violence of this social system, that ossify all possibilities of life, and the brutal, direct, personal violent conditions at the hands of men. In the last year, a rise in crimes of violence against women was discovered in the provinces where a formal social and legal equality was represented.
Open use of violence of men against women have become clear in their proportions in the last year as a result of the work of women’s shelters and emergency call lines. Women experience violence daily in different forms and qualities. They are embarrassed, humiliated, attacked, and raped. In the FRG (4), a women is raped every 15 minutes! 50% of women are raped by men they know. Every year 4 million women in the FRG are abused by their husbands. The decisive factor of the structure of violence is the abuse of women in the family, rape, threats of rape, and asthetisization of violence against women in the media, advertising, and the cultural industry.
Violence against women, not as the exception, but understood as a universal ruling principal, has led to the knowledge that the struggle against the personal experience of sexist violence cannot be separated from the struggle against every form of violence of the system. The increase in physical violence is a general social reality, along with the increasing senselessness of life and the anonymity of relationships, and women find themselves in the role of the social sacrifice. The covering up of this violence by the police and the justice system clarifies the embedding of the violent relationships between a man and his wife through marriage and the family in protecting this system is indicated by the increase of open violence. The contradiction between the claim of the full equality of women and the necessity of their clear oppression for the security of the ruling class is for this system an irreconcilable contradiction.
Women live in “exile”, because the socially organized institutions, like government, the economy, education, culture, the media, the church, the police, and the military are shaped and ruled by men. They are characterized by the principle of hierarchy, power, and power struggles. Therefore, men are also affected by power, violence, and oppression. They must subordinate themselves to these principles if the predominance of “male rule” is to be preserved. Our oppression is based on this. Women will always and above all be oppressed and confronted with violence either open or veiled, in a patriarchal society.
Women must bow to this to avoid an open confrontation with power and violence, as long as this system exists – remaining in exile as a survival technique – but also remaining in a sacrificial posture. This sacrificial posture leads to an evasion of the responsibility for social conditions, therefore making them partially to blame. The fact that women experience violence is no excuse for passing on the violence to their children.
The internalization of this by women, as the most effective form of securing power, occurs through subtle forms of preventing the development of self-consciousness through education, morals, and love, to enforce the established norms and to enforce conformity. Power will certainly exert not open forms, so that, without the use of open violence, women will take on and tolerate their social functions and will identify with them. As such, the situation of women leads more quickly to the surrendering of one’s identity, to self-destruction as the struggle against their oppression.
The women’s movement made the personal oppressive situation of women into the starting point of their political practice. The division between private and political was abolished. The personal was political and the political was made personal. Explosive revolutionary force lay in the consciousness of the direct connection between the abolition of personal suffering and the necessity of a social transformation. The idea of radical social change – much more revolutionary in the change of the consciousness of people than all previous revolutions – producing a deep power among women. New forms and contents led to the separation from the general left movement, to the organizational autonomy of the women’s movement. Autonomy introduced important processes, calling into question the value structures of male society, not looking far any perspective within the social power structure, not wanting to participate in influencing power, not defining women’s liberation through male roles. This led them to construct liberated space to escape patriarchal structures. That was and is important, because no movement has as much to struggle for a separate identity from the oppressor as the women’s movement!
In the attacks against all oppressive structures lies the hope of not being integratable, and the hope of producing and developing the core of revolutionary subversion. On the basis of the overemphasis of subjective experience, which was the consequences of the taboos in the left groups, and the difficulty of converting the knowledge of personal oppression into direct acts of resistance, an “internalization” came out of the politics of subjectivity: personal change without social change.
The route into the new “internalization” was favoured by the class position of many of the women in the women’s movement. For women with “good” vocational training, there were and are real possibilities of finding a niche in this society and of seeking a little subjective “happiness”. The powerlessness with respect to social relationships wasn’t raised. This approach proved to be a dead-end. The yearning for happiness was pursued without ever being achieved.
After the campaign against Paragraph 218 (5), the resistance of the women’s movement developed almost exclusively to the point of confrontation with the individual man. Women set up self-defense groups, rape crisis lines, and, above all, women’s shelters. State repression was thoroughly analyzed and described, however their behaviour was hardly political. Both the women’s congresses in 1978, “Women and Repression” in Frankfurt and “Violence Against Women” in Cologne, showed clearly the dilemma of the women’s movement. The coinciding of two experiences, violence as a daily attack and violence as a specifically directed oppression by the State, were not connected to each other. Abdicating the necessity of establishing the connection between capitalism and social oppression, abdication of the necessity of establishing who the man is, led, as a result, to the development of a tendency in the “self-help projects” (women’s shelters, crisis groups, women’s centres) to only soothing women in crisis. At the point, when women limit themselves to remedying the distress of women, without taking up and attacking the social causes, when they let opposition to the State drop, there is no guarantee against corruption, the radicalism with regards to the male gender of the police forces is at an end. Negotiations with the cops and the justice apparatus to help a woman who has been attacked, to imprison the rapist can’t replace the strength which is lacking and degenerates into complicity with the State. And clearly, at this point the massive State attempt at integration exhibits its effectiveness. The goal of this attempt at integration was and is to destroy the explosive revolutionary force of the women’s movement, to turn women into badly paid administrators of misery.
A similar contradiction exists in the area of women’s lesbian culture. The radicalism with which many lesbian women have broken with the male gender which expressed itself equally in a blossoming creativity in the areas of theatre, music, literature, and painting, which precipitated a new beginning for women’s culture, did not prevent it from becoming part of a State-tolerated subculture. Lesbian dreams are very radical dreams, but here in the metropole, they find a place. A privileged minority, who had the will to engage in social bargaining, with the hope of thus setting all women free, transformed the autonomous women’s project into an illusion of the achievement of personal happiness.
The autonomy of the women’s movement today, organizationally and as regards content, is to be determined, and its social external boundary is to be established. There is no causal connection between autonomy and the external boundary. The autonomy of the movement can and must be developed, without reducing women’s politics to woman-specific problems. For self-help projects, provocation, and not the avoidance of confrontation must be the goal, to break the social rules and not to be turned to a little functioning cog.
In the recent past, more and more women are expressing their unease about the political exile of the women’s/lesbian movement, more and more women are breaking through the ‘clones’ covering the women’s islands and are seeking to develop a feminist position and a practice regarding the questions of ecological destruction, for example, nuclear power, chemistry, etc., against militarization, and regarding the problem of internationalism/the 3rd World.
For us, it is clear that the women’s project can’t do without the organization of subversiveness and counter-violence. The women’s movement has already written enough analyses about how women are educated to endure violence, but to not protect themselves. Women are trained to accept the powerlessness and psychological destruction, which this system uses her emotionality to bring about. The sympathy of women for the oppressed is strongly developed, but the hate for the oppressor, the enemy, is not developed. Hate has something to do with destruction and destruction scares women. To stop at describing these conditions, means nothing other then to accept the condition of powerlessness, to accept the role this society offers women. The myth of “peace-loving” women is the legitimation for remaining in the condition of sacrifice.
“Powerlessness Is The Magician’s Hat Of Cowardice”
But every woman who has ever thrown a stone, who didn’t retreat after being struck by a man, but attacked back, can comprehend the feeling of freedom we had when we destroyed sex shops or set off a bomb on the occasion of the Federal Supreme Court decision regarding Paragraph 218. In our society, freedom has something to do with destruction; destruction of the structures that want to chain us to women’s roles. And these structures can only be destroyed if we attack the conditions that attempt to destroy us. Attacking in the most diverse forms, but always in connection with our unreconcilable hate for the society. The armed form of attacks is, for us, an unavoidable part of women’s struggle. This position, as we have outlined is barely developed in the women’s movement. Therefore, we have organized together with men in the guerrilla. But here the contradiction between the struggle against sexism and class struggle can’t be resolved either. Our status as an autonomous women’s group in the RZ (6) is determined on the basis of the current political situation of women, which is characterized by a weakness of the women’s movement as regards contents and the fact that the militant organization of women is only at its beginning. We are not a supplementary front of struggle, with which organizations can decorate themselves. We are not the solution to fundamental problems, only one way. Our feminist way bases itself on the perspectives of the women’s movement and the international revolutionary struggles, and not only on our perspective.
(Source: “Revolutionaren Zorn” (7) #9, January 1981)
- Stokely Carmicheal – leading figure in the Pan-Africanist tendency of the Black Power Movement in the USA in the 60’s.
- Rosa Luxemburg – leading figure in the Spartacists, the far left, non-Leninist tendency which broke with the West German Social Democratic Party in the 1st World War period. Murdered along with Karl Liebknecht, following her arrest during a workers uprising in 1918, in which the Spartacists played a key role.
- Refers to a quote from Leon Trotsky claiming the future held two options, Socialism or Barbarism.
- FRG – Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany
- Paragraph 218 – Legal Paragraph governing abortion in West Germany.
- RZ – Revolutionary Cells, the sexually mixed autonomist guerrilla group from which Rote Zora split, but with whom they continue to cooperate.
- Revolutionaren Zorn (Revolutionary Rage) is the illegal newspaper of the Revolutionary Cells and Rote Zora. It comes out roughly once a year.